Reasons why there are more inheritance battles than ever - and what you can do to stop it

The number of court battles involving inheritance hit an all-time high last year. But, what was it that caused such a surge in figures and what can we do to make sure they don’t increase further?

In 2019, the High Court saw 188 cases from individuals seeking either a larger share of an estate, or claiming that they should have a stake in one. This figure was a huge increase of 47% from the 128 claims issued in 2018, just one year before.

According to an article in the Times recently, one of the major drivers appears to be the increasing value in estates thanks to rising property prices and some say it is that which entices people into thinking they may be able to get their share.

What’s more, the average size of estates has grown in recent years. Significant and rapidly rising property prices in London and the South East have made the average modest family home worth anything into the millions of pounds - an attractive proposition for any would-be will-challengers.

However, the growth in estates may not be the only reason. There has also been a rise in the number of cohabiting couples in recent years. In fact, according to the ONS, cohabiting couples was the fastest growing family type in the UK in 2018. Couples who live together but are not married or civil partners, are not automatically entitled to a share of the other’s estate unless this is specifically documented in a will. There could be other reasons, such as more widely-reported high profile court cases which may have raised awareness into heirs’ rights to pursue a larger inheritance.

As challenging estates becomes more common, so too does the potential heartache for families. The only way to ensure you can protect the wishes of your loved ones is to write a will and make sure it is kept up to date. This is particularly important if you re-marry or enter into a civil partnership, you have more children or grandchildren. More complex family structures increases the risk of disputes, particularly where there are blended families with children from previous relationships.

It is always best to seek legal advice before challenging a will as it may not be as straightforward as you might expect. It is also recommended you talk through your wishes with your family as it may help prevent emotional turmoil further down the line.

If you would like some more information about drafting or updating your will, or you would like some advice about challenging a will, contact the Private Client team at Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.

Liz Dalgetty

Liz Dalgetty

Consultant Solicitor & Notary Public

Tel: +44 (0) 1306 502251

Office: Dorking Office